Rating: 5 out 5
Level 3, Market City, 9-13 Hay Street, Haymarket 2000
If you thought that the Sydney ramen scene was already pretty crowded, we have welcomed some new joints in recent months. There has been a flurry of openings that raise the bar for a cheap and cheerful Japanese noodle, with Ramen Ikkyu‘s rich broth and thin noodles sending Sydney’s ramen fans into a drooling mess, followed by this new outlet, Hakata-Maru Ramen.
Hakata-Maru has opened in the food court of Chinatown shopping outlet hub, Market City. It proudly serves Hakata-style ramen, which is known for its milky, white broth made from pork bones, and thin, straight, firm noodles. The new outlet has been fitted out to look a bit like a traditional Japanese ramen shop, and from the counter, you can peer into the open kitchen. Huge pots of tonkotsu broth sit on enormous burners, a ramen assistant cooks each batch of noodle and flings the baskets up and down to get rid of excess water, and the ramen master carefully assembles each bowl of delicious noodle.
The menu board shouts out the three main ramen offerings – a white, red or black tonkotsu ramen. The white tonkotsu ramen is the base for each variety, with the red tonkotsu enhanced by a dollop of red miso paste, and the black tonkotsu by a slick of black garlic oil and garlic flakes. Being a garlic enthusiast, it was impossible for me to go past the black option. Hakata-Maru also offers extras for your order, as well as typical Hakata-style toppings for free, such as sesame seeds, benishoga or pickled red ginger strips, and karashi takana or spicy pickled mustard greens.
On my tray, alongside my glistening bowl of noodles, is a colourful cheat sheet, What is Hakata Ramen?, imparting some interesting information on what makes the Hakata-style noodle unique, as well as a guide for maximum noodle enjoyment.
Initially, I thought ramen serving was small, but I was thankful for this after discovering the richness of the tonkotsu broth. The broth itself had a smooth, creaminess that didn’t leave that collagenic feel on the lips, and had a deep, flavoursome porkiness. Stirring the garlic oil through white tonkotsu broth turned it into an almost squid ink black liquid, and added a further delicious, garlicky flavour dimension. The crunch of fried garlic flakes, silkiness of the seasoned egg with wobbly yolk, and tender pork complemented the firmer, “al dente” style of straight ramen noodle, which have a nice bite and good level of springiness.
This place is going to be another Sydney ramen institution. At a mere $7.80 for the basic, but still more than satisfying, white tonkotsu ramen, and $8.80 for the red or black tonkotsu (and $1 kaedama), Hakata-Maru delivers everything that you could ask for in a food court meal, and more.